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Doctors must be quicker to diagnose endometriosis, says NICE

Woman in pain

Too many women are suffering from crippling pain and leading disrupted lives as they wait to be diagnosed with endometriosis – but NICE hopes new guidelines will bring about change

Doctors must listen to women who are in pain and be quicker to diagnose endometriosis – that's the message included in new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Delayed diagnosis is one of the biggest problems facing women with endometriosis who, on average, face 7.5 years between first reporting symptoms and receiving a confirmed diagnosis.

The delay leaves women experiencing severe pain and means the condition is even more difficult to treat. The new guidelines are designed to alert doctors to the most common symptoms of endometriosis. These include:

  • Painful periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Subfertility

The new guidance for doctors aims to raise awareness of the symptoms of endometriosis, and to provide clear advice on what action to take when women with signs and symptoms first present in healthcare settings. It also provides advice on the range of treatments available.

Professor Mark Baker, Director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “The condition is difficult to diagnose as symptoms vary and are often unspecific. However, once it has been diagnosed, there are effective treatments available that can ease women’s symptoms. This guideline will help healthcare professionals detect endometriosis early, to close the symptom to diagnosis gap and to ensure more timely treatment.”

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows in other places, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries or along the pelvis. When that lining breaks down, like the regular lining in the uterus that produces the menstruation, it has nowhere to go.

Endometriosis affects one in ten women and there are approximately 176 million women suffering from it worldwide. Sufferers describe crippling pain which leaves them incapacitated and unable to hold down a job. It can damage women's fertility and the sense that they're suffering from a condition that nobody else is willing to take seriously can have implications for their mental health.